Boiled Meat Dinner from Madrid
Cocido Madrileño - or simply cocido - is probably
one of Spain's national dishes. Cocido is based on a vast cauldron, which
simmers away all day, hardly bubbling. In the old days households made it every
day, for poached meat used to be the hallmark of the middle-class kitchen. From
this pot comes a series of magnificient things.
First there is the caldo. This is clear
stock, rich with many meat juices. Famous as clear soup with sherry in it, it is
drunk world-wide. Caldo is also used in many Spanish dishes. It may be
saved, but is often served as the first course before cocido, with a
couple of spoonfuls of rice cooked in it.
The most important constituents of the pot are the
meats, which are chosen for their diversity. Salt meat, fresh meat and sausage (preferably
smoked) must all be there, for this is a dish for tough meats, full of flavour,
which are made tender only by long cooking. A roasting chicken is less good than
the cheaper boiling hen. Meat bones and trotters add richness to the stock.
The pot also contains vegetables, the first being
chickpeas, which are traditdional unifying element in all spanish ollas (stewpots)
and have an ancient history in Spain. With them come pot herbs - onion, garlic,
and leek - each with their appointed time for being added and function. There
are also fresh vegetables, to make colourful, cheerful platters to serve as an
entrée to the meats, or as an accompaniment.
- Serves 8
- Difficulty: intermediate
- Preparation time: more than one day.
Chickpeas must be soaked overnight, and cooking takes several hours.
- 9 oz dried chickpeas soaked overnight
- 1 lb cured brisket of beef or
silverside in one piece
- 9 oz salt pork belly, streaky bacon in
one piece or fresh pork belly.
- 1 lb 4 oz knuckle gammon bone, with
some meat attached
- 1 1/2 lb beef marrow bone, sawn
- 1/2 boiling chicken
- 1 pig's trotter, split
- 1 whole garlic bulb
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 black peppercorns, crushed
- 1 small onion, studded with 2 cloves
- 1 1/2 lb Savoy cabbage, quartered
- 2 carrots, in big pieces
- 2 leeks, short lengths
- 1 lb new potatoes
- 2 chorizos, or other smoked sausage
- 1 morcilla or 7 oz black pudding.
Several hours before cooking, cover the
salted meat (brisket or silverside, salt pork belly or bacon and gammon
knuckle) with cold water and leave to soak.
Choose a large stockpot - at least 10
pints (6 liter). Pack in all the meat, skin side down, with the beef
bone. Fit the chicken and trotter on top. Add the garlic bulb, bay
leaves and peppercorns and cover with water. Bring to a simmer,
sikimming off any scum that rises.
Drain the chickpeas, add to the pot,
cover and simmer on the lowest possible heat for 1 1/2 hours, checking
occasionally. Halvfway through add the onion stuck with the cloves. No
other vegetables go in.
In a second casserole, put the
quartered cabbage, all the vegetables and all the sausages. If the black
pudding has a plastic skin, remove it. Add water to cover the
ingredients and a little salt and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook
until the potatoes are ready.
Drain the vegetables and sausages and
slice the sausages. Arrange the vegetables decoratively on a platter and
put the sausage slices on top. This can be served before the meat or
Remove the meats from the main pot,
collecting the chickpeas together. Remove the marrow from the bone and
slice it into the chickpeas. Slice all the meats. Arrange the meats and
chickpeas on a platter, moistening them with a little broth.
The order and manner of serving is
governed by family tradition. Some families like an splendid display,
with everything being served at the same time on different platters.
This marks the occasion as a feast day, since normal way is for
vegetables to precede meat.
Often, and I think more conveniently,
the vegetables are served first, garnished with the sausages. The
practice has developed, now, of having a second pot for fresh vegetables
- in the old days, I suspect, the life was cooked out of them. As the
sausages are cooked with them, the second pot retains the cabbage
flavours and the smoky sausage taste, which could otherwise reduce the
value of the pure meat stock in the main pot.
When the meats, garnished with chickpeas,
are served without fresh vegetables, a choice of pickles may be put on
the table, gherkins, guindilla, and pickled onions.